UPDATE: The Associated Press reported Sunday afternoon that Turkey had officially recalled its Vatican ambassador after Pope Francis' remarks on the 1915 Armenian genocide.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry claimed "great disappointment and sadness" in the wake of the pope's comments — he'd called Ottoman Turkey's massacre of Christian Armenians "the first genocide of the 20th century" — and claimed the pope had been discriminatory by noting the suffering of Christian Armenians but not Muslims or other ethnic groups.
Pope Francis on Sunday called the 1915 Armenian genocide "the first genocide of the 20th century" and called on the rest of the world to recognize it as such, a comment that prompted the Turkish government to summon the Vatican’s envoy in Ankara.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the Vatican envoy to Ankara, the Associated Press reported, while Reuters quoted an unnamed senior official who confirmed the diplomatic summons meant to express Turkey’s discomfort with the pope’s statement.
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians are believed to have been killed after the Muslim rulers of the Ottoman Empire – whose capital was in modern day Turkey - decided to expel or kill the Armenian Christian minority living under its rule. Turkey denies that the Christian deaths amounted to a "genocide" and were instead the result of unrest.
Pope Francis leaves at the end of an Armenian-Rite Mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 12, 2015. Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic incident with Turkey on Sunday by calling the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks “the first genocide of the 20th century" and urging the international community to recognize it as such. Turkey, which denies a genocide took place, immediately summoned the Vatican ambassador to express its displeasure, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Ankara, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
"Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it," Francis said during an Armenian Catholic mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica honoring the 100th anniversary of the colossal killing.
The AP noted that while several European countries recognize the event as a genocide, Italy and the U.S. “have avoided using the term officially given the importance they place on Turkey as an ally.”
The pope called the 1915 slaughter the first of three "massive and unprecedented" genocides in the 20th century including the Holocaust and Stalinism.
"It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by," he said.
The Turkish government has not yet issued a public statement in response to the pope's remarks.
The AP noted that Francis developed close ties with the Armenian community in Argentina before he was chosen as the pope.